ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

6 March 2002


2 items - for more on the Krebs agenda:
March 6/02

LONDON - British environment minister Michael Meacher and the country's Food Standards Agency (FSA) are set to clash on Wednesday over the labelling and tracing of genetically-modified foods.

The European Union select committee in the House of Lords will hear evidence from FSA chief John Krebs and Meacher on tough new EU proposals planning compulsory labels for all food products made from gene-spliced crops.

Meacher supports tougher measures, like those proposed by the EU plan, while the FSA thinks such steps are unworkable.

Under the EU traceability proposals, any food product derived from a GM crop must be labelled as such, even if the genetic material is removed during manufacturing -- as is the case with some vegetable oils.

The UK food watchdog has said it is not convinced that the current EU proposals could be delivered in a workable way and that consumers in general would face increased costs.

It has called for a "GM free-label" which would only be used for some foods and would cost consumers more if they choose to buy it.

"It seems reasonable to meet this specific market and for the cost involved to fall on those who wish to exercise the choice," Krebs had said.

Meacher is expected to support more stringent labelling and traceability requirements.

Critics have said the FSA proposals do not go far enough.

Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth said that the FSA, which was set up to protect consumers, "seems intent on taking that choice away."

"Food has been GM-Free for thousands of years, but now the FSA say we must pay more if we want to avoid this controversial technology," the group's GM campaigner Adrian Bebb said.
Web version:

Embargo:  00:01 Wednesday 6th  March 2002
GM LABELLING:  Krebs vs Meacher

FOE challenges FSA to stand up for consumers

Friends of the Earth will today challenge the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to stand up for British consumers and demand better labelling of GM foods.

FSA chief Sir John Krebs and Environment Minister Michael Meacher will both give evidence today (Wednesday) to a House of Lords committee, on new EU proposals for better labelling and tracing of GM foods.

The FSA has echoed both the US Government and the American Soybean Association [1], by calling for weaker proposals as well as a "GM-free" label which will only apply to a limited amount of food, which the FSA admits will be more expensive. Meacher is believed to support more stringent labelling and traceability requirements, making a clash between the two likely.

The FSA has said the EU proposals are unworkable and open to fraud - but Friends of the Earth believes the FSA-proposed "GM-free"  label would be open to even worse problems.

Last week, US embassy officials giving evidence to the same  committee refused to accept European consumers' right to choose to avoid GM food apart for voluntary schemes.

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "The FSA's position is appalling.  They seem to be more interested in protecting the biotech industry than British consumers.  Food has been GM-free for thousands of years, but now the FSA say we must pay more if we want to avoid this controversial technology. The British public has made it very clear that they want proper choice over whether or not to eat GM foods.  The FSA, which was set up to protect consumers, seems intent on taking that choice away."

[1]     US Government evidence to the House of Lords 27/02/2002 and letters sent to MPs from the American Soybean Association.

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